Spoken Language Study Essay Plan/Outline

In the introduction, the topic is introduced and the reader is given an overview of what is going to be talked about within the essay.  This is also a good place to state the question you are discussing and/or the approach you have taken to answer the question.

What is the purpose of your introduction?

  • To define your aim and purpose
  • To awaken the interest of the reader in reading further
  • Defining your scope and purpose – communicate the range of what you intend to include or exclude (you might mention relevant theory/concepts/ideas that frame or inform your work and understanding
  • It describes your approach
  • It gives a brief overview of the sequence and structure of your work
  • It leads into the topic with a link sentence to the next paragraph of the main body

What to watch out for:

  • Try to avoid ‘I’ unless a reflective piece. Use passive verb constructions
  • Example:

– In this assignment public health policy in relation to drug abuse will be analysed. PASSIVE

– I will analyse public health policy. ACTIVE

  • In some assignments you may need to set the scene with an outline of an industry, conditions, case from practice, or a brief description of a setting before the main body. You are likely to gain more marks for analysis and evaluation.
  • Examples of topic sentences:

– In the last ten years the emergence of X has created…

– The growth of X has had various social consequences which will be debated here…

– Debates have emerged in the field of medical ethics concerning…

– The case of patient X which this assignment centres upon was observed in an acute setting during October 2016…


  • Use active verbs to inform the reader of the activities you will undertake in writing: for example, ‘critique’, ‘analyse’, ‘discuss’, ‘debate’, ‘compare’.
  • Identify particular theory or perspectives to be used in your analysis.
  • Mirror the language of the original assignment question. Use verbs such as ‘evaluate’.
  • Reflect after you have written your introduction and check if it also captures the key assessment criteria.

Example Introduction:

Feminism and sociological theory have addressed the problems of violence against women in recent years (Brown 2012).

This assignment will examine current explanations for violence against women with reference primarily to social and psychological theory. Latterly the criminal justice system’s response to the problem in the UK will be explored.

Firstly it may be useful to explore historic and current feminist theory which has contributed to the debate.

^ This link sentence tells the reader what to expect in the next paragraph.

Analysing spoken language: example

Here is another comedy clip. As you watch, listen to the characters' words, expressions, accent, and intonation (how their voice rises and falls).

The Catherine Tate Show

Analysis of the way the two characters talk:

The teacher: The teacher speaks softly and pronounces her words clearly. This may suggest a formal education and a background that values 'standard' modes of speaking. Her accent, particularly her pronunciation of 'r' in words (eg learn) shows she is from the West of England. This is characteristic of many rural and West Country English areas which is why Lauren asks if she is a farmer.

The teacher's tone is soft, showing that she is in a nurturing or caring role, but her speech is full of commands, showing that the relationship is unequal (or 'asymmetric'). The teacher is in a position of authority. She therefore gets angry when that authority is challenged. As the sketch goes on, however, the teacher loses her soft tone and she ends up acting like Lauren.

Lauren: The first thing we notice about Lauren is her confrontational manner. This is mirrored in her idiolect - she does not change the words or expressions she uses to fit the situation. She also picks up on the teacher's different accent. When she does she draws wrong conclusions. First she thinks the teacher must be from the north, then that she must be a farmer.

We laugh at the way Lauren speaks and the mistakes she makes. Lauren does not speak Standard English. We can hear this, for example, in the way 'th' is pronounced 'f' (as in 'norf'), and the way she repeats question tags such as 'is it'.

Conclusions: Lauren is very judgemental about the teacher. She draws conclusions based on how the teacher speaks. The audience, however, also draws conclusions about Lauren. We laugh because Lauren makes comments that seem inappropriate. While we may draw conclusions from the way people speak, we are usually aware that it is not polite to say: "you speak funny, is it!" What is funny is Lauren's lack of self-awareness. She has not stopped to think that the teacher might think Lauren herself sounds 'funny'. We might also be laughing because we recognise the way she speaks and acts in our friends and, perhaps, ourselves.

Lauren is a very successful comic creation. One reason people like her might be because we enjoy seeing the way spoken language causes problems. Different people, with different ways of speaking, cannot understand each other. It forces them apart and into confrontational situations. Recognising that, perhaps, brings us all closer together.

Key terms:

Asymmetrical relationship - a relationship where one person is in a more powerful social or professional position than the other (as opposed to a symmetrical relationship).

Rhetorical question - a question that works more like a statement: it does not require a genuine answer. It can be used as a persuasive device but also to create distance between two arguing parties.

Now try a Test Bite.

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